I once was young, but now…

mural of elderly woman

I found my first gray hair after more than a year in North Africa. I wailed as I looked at its reflection in the mirror. Was it really gray or just blond? I yanked it out and gingerly carried it to my roommate. She inspected it too, pulling out her flashlight for better lighting.

There, in the glaring battery-powered light, we knew the truth. Grimacing, my roommate (only one year younger than I) looked up at me, “I’m sorry!”

I could have wallowed in despair. But I didn’t. For some reason it didn’t bother me as much as I was expecting.

Long, long ago—and I’m pretty sure I’m qualified to use this phrase now that I’m over 30—long, loooong ago, my older sister told me that she didn’t think there was any point in feeling old. “We’re never going to be any younger than we are right now.”

I’ve remembered that.

Why are we so afraid of age? Is it the aches and pains? The slowing metabolism? The realization that our bodies are “past their prime”? The imminence of the grave (even though “to die is gain”? Why do we focus on the negative aspects?

Long, long ago, an English professor told me that the best part about getting older is the accumulation of knowledge. I’m not sure I would agree that knowledge is the best part, but it’s a pretty hefty perk.

As we get older, we get to embrace adulthood, make our own decisions, continue maturing, grow in wisdom, and teach the younger generation.

In Arabic (at least in this North African dialect), the verbs “to grow old” and “to honor” are almost identical. In the culture, gray-haired people are respected because of their life experience and wisdom. For some reason, my one gray hair—or maybe five or six by now—doesn’t hold a lot of weight yet. Maybe in another ten years I will be ten years wiser, and ten years more worthy of respect.

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